How long does it take for science to identify a new type of harm from commercial activity before litigation tries to hold the businesses accountable?

Executive Summary

Despite scientific evidence that some endocrine disrupting chemicals are a major cause of the so-called "diseases of modern living" with population-level effects, DES litigation was the sole example of endocrine disruption litigation—until recently. Here, Praedicat's Adam Grossman and David Loughran review some of the scientific literature supporting emerging hair relaxer and acetaminophen litigation and highlight an important distinction from 20th century tobacco and asbestos tort actions: women and children as plaintiffs.

It has been more than 50 years since scientists determined that some environmental chemical exposures can affect our health by interfering with how our hormones function. Theo Colborn coined a term for this phenomenon more than 30 years ago: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, or EDCs. There was one early warning in the form of the 1970s litigation over the synthetic estrogen diethylstilbestrol (DES), in which plaintiffs alleged in utero DES exposure caused the daughters of the women who took it to develop vaginal and cervical cancers later in life. With the benefit of hindsight, we know that the DES litigation was about endocrine disruption before it was named as such.

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